Why Trust Matters in the Workplace and How Business Leaders Can Build It

TED KITTERMAN

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TED KITTERMAN

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The three essential elements that all great workplaces have.

You might have several theories about what makes an organization a positive place to work.

Happy employees are surely those with inflated paychecks and unmatched benefit programs. Perhaps they get a share of company profits in employee stock ownership plans, or have ditched traditional hierarchy for a more equitable “flat” structure.

You’d be wrong.

The employee experience isn’t fundamentally determined by whether a company is privately owned or publicly traded, whether its workers are hourly or salaried, or whether a company writes software in Silicon Valley or manufactures automobiles in Michigan.

The key ingredient is deceptively simple: trust. Do your workers trust you?

Discovering the magic ingredient was the result of thousands of hours of interviews and focus groups conducted by the founders of Great Place To Work® in developing its Trust Index™.

“For pretty much every theory we had, we found consistent exceptions,” says Sarah Lewis-Kulin, vice president of global recognition at Great Place To Work. “What we didn’t find an exception for was trust.”

What builds trust in the workplace?

Trust can feel like a squishy word, even as it becomes more and more recognized as an essential business asset. Edelman’s annual Trust Barometer shows the way trust in institutions like the media and government can have profound implications for markets.

But what does it mean for employees to experience trust? Telling them to trust you doesn’t work. You have to build a high-trust culture over time.

According to Great Place To Work research, such a culture is built on three components:

  1. Credibility. Do workers believe leaders are competent, communicative, and honest?
  2. Respect. Do workers feel respected both as professionals and individuals with lives outside of work?
  3. Fairness. Do workers see the organization as a place where everyone has a fair chance to succeed?

Underpinning these ingredients is a commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging. Without a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable culture, trust is quickly lost.

“What we’re really talking about is that everyone in the organization is treated with credibility, respect, and fairness … regardless of their job role, their gender, any race, ethnicity, or other demographic category,” says Lewis-Kulin.

For a workplace to be great, the employee experience has to be consistent for everyone. If only senior-level, male managers say they trust the organization while front-line employees or women in management are having a very different experience, that won’t build trust.

That’s why Great Place To Work introduced its For All™ model, where gaps between different employee groups are measured to identify how every employee feels at work — not just the majority.

The building blocks of trust

How do great leaders cultivate credibility, respect, and fairness within their companies? It’s crucial to close the Say-Do gap, as trust only develops when words are followed by action.

For any culture to develop high levels of trust, it has to start with leaders.

“You can’t create a trusting organization without it being modeled as a value from the top of the organization,” Lewis-Kulin says. Otherwise, you might have a pocket of employees who trust each other, but they get their backs up when working with people outside their team.

Machiavelli might approve, but it’s no recipe for success in the modern workplace.

Here are some ways for leaders to start building trust:

Credibility

  • Communicate consistently and directly.
  • Ensure your public actions mirror the values you subscribe to internally. If your PR team, for instance, publicly proclaims that your company champions DEIB, but employees aren’t experiencing an inclusive culture, they’ll view your actions as hypocritical.
  • Demand that public value statements match the internal experience of employees.
  • Make sure that communication goes both ways— listen to your people as much as you share information with them.
  • Take tangible actions every time you ask and receive employee feedback.

Respect

  • Create a culture that supports employees’ work-life balance, allows them to use PTO and flexible schedules offered, and acknowledges their lives outside of work. And don’t forget to set a good example yourself.
  • Show genuine interest in who your people are and what matters to them outside of work.
  • Show appreciation for employees’ good work and extra effort.
  • Provide development and training programs, give employees time to do them, and reward employees who complete them.
  • Ensure everyone can bring their full selves to the workplace by focusing on belonging and inclusion.

Fairness

  • Review compensation and close any pay gaps for employees doing equal work.
  • Add seats to the board of directors to ensure marginalized voices are heard.
  • Analyze workplace well-being programs to ensure they serve the needs of all employees.

The business case for trust

The good news for leaders is that building trust has an unmistakable impact on financial performance for organizations across industries.

According to independent investment firm FTSE Russell, cumulative stock market returns outpace the market by a factor of three for publicly held organizations on the Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list.

The data is clear: Companies that invest in their workers deliver stronger financial results over the long term. Even better, those companies have the resilience to ride out economic downturns. Great Place To Work research shows that companies that supported key employee groups were able to grow during the Great Recession from 2008 to 2010, and have vastly outstripped the competition in the decade since.

The outcomes of employee trust on the bottom line are undeniable:

  • High-trust cultures have half the attrition turnover of industry competitors.
  • High-trust cultures have accelerated rates of innovation.
  • High-trust cultures see more employees go above and beyond to deliver for clients and customers.

Get started with trust

Learn how to create an award-winning company culture. Subscribe to the Great Place To Work company culture newsletter and join 100,000+ other leaders learning how to create a great workplace.

TED KITTERMAN

Ted Kitterman is a content manager for Great Place To Work®. Ted has experience covering the workplace, business communications, public relations, internal communications, work culture, employee well-being, brand purpose and more. His work shines a light on the unparalleled data and insights offered by Great Place to Work’s decades of research, helping the company share its vision of a great place to work For All™.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category